Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Flood: When the Waters Recede

We face a great challenge.

Information comes to us, more often than not, in a flood. It comes rushing in, sometimes with no warning. There's no way to prepare for this flood - no, you find yourself trapped in the middle of it, thigh-deep in speculation, hearsay, and lies, sprinkled with some facts.

There are Facebook and Twitter feeds filled with articles that are filled with half-truths that are followed by confident, hasty opinions. There are digitized disagreements between "friends" and followers who've not heard the voice of the other in years, if ever.

Photo Credit: Adrian Kingsley-Hughes via Compfight cc

You're overwhelmed by the flood; there may be no getting out.

I remember watching (from the news) the floodwaters of 2005's Hurricane Katrina as they slowly receded. The dirty, displaced rubble left behind by the murky water was now ready to be rummaged through -- what is worth keeping? And what was really valuable to begin with?

The clean-up didn't happen alone. Communities - families, churches, restaurant staff, neighborhoods - worked through it together.

But by this time, many of the eyes watching the flood from cubicles and living rooms, once feeling as though they were caught up in it themselves, had moved on, changed channels, become weary or bored, because there seem to be so many floods these days.

To be sure, there was urgency during Katrina. Babies needed formula, hospitals needed medicine, and grandmothers needed rescuing from attics. There, too, is an urgency in our flood: parents want answers, authorities are overwhelmed, truths must come soon.

But beyond the urgent days comes the slow, thoughtful, difficult work of sorting through the pieces, looking for the long view, seeing a way forward.

We continue to be surrounded by the floodwaters of injustice, war, famine and deceit. And for these floods that ravage our street and our city - no longer just on our screens - may we have the courage to do the long work of digging out what is valuable and recognizing what should be left behind.

Monday, July 14, 2014

No Fear: You've Got to Dance

We sat out on the grass yesterday evening, and as I watched the people shaking their hips and moving their feet to the rhythms of the funk band, I knew something was true:

I've become afraid to dance.

When I was 17 years old, on summer break between my junior and senior year of high school, we went to the mountains of North Carolina, where we went every year for our youth group trip. There were students there from churches all over the South, and it was my intention to meet every single one of them. And I almost did.

It was the joke every year that I'd come home with 50 email addresses, and just as many love clips (clothespins that you wrote words of encouragement/notes on and sneakily clipped to someone's shirttail or sleeve). I loved this about myself; there was no fear, just a seizing of the opportunity to know another person, laugh with them, sing with them, and if it happens to be a cute boy, flirt with him (ah, sweet summer camp).

But, now, I've become afraid, afraid of what people will think of me.

Will they think I'm weird? Will they wonder why I want to talk to them? Will they think I'm childish? Will they stare at me?

What's interesting is that none of these things matter. Even if someone does think any of these things, does it really matter? Can we really manage what others assume about us before they know us? And if they do think we're weird, can we do anything about that? And... why do we care?

I could take time to answer these questions (as I've done a lot of analyzing - of myself and others - over this topic) but what I want to get to is this: it doesn't matter what they think.

I'm not talking about character here - character matters. Here, I mean that it doesn't matter what people assume before ever getting to know us; it matters that we still walk up to their table, sit down beside them, and ask for their names. It matters that we get those email addresses and stay in touch. It matters that we walk down the sidewalk, wave our hands, and ask the first questions.

We're all full of assumptions; you and I are both guilty of assumptions about others.

It's important to not let fear immobilize us from connecting with people, and it's important that our identity isn't wrapped up in other people's assumptions about us. It's important that we love others and connect deeply and make mistakes along the way.

And it's important that we dance.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Rain, Rain, Come and Stay

Sticky note poem writing, with the scent of rain sneaking in.

That smell of the rain
that came
to wash away
the heat of the day.

Just when you were
all of your shame,
hidden so far away
from the light of day.

When things are gray
sometimes it is such relief,
such relief

from yourself,
from your pain.

Come, you pouring rain.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Silent Work

You started off so small.
No roots, no plan, no place to call your own.

by others, into places you may
not have chosen.
Dirty, unkempt, this place where you have landed.

But you work,
you grow those roots,
dig down deep
into dirt that knows how to grab hold and keep you down.

This place that stains the soul
is good for something.
"I think I'll stay."


On and on this goes,
while you,
keep at your silent work. 

This will take time.


Until someone notices
you've grown tall, strong, beautiful.
You were small, but you were planted.
Roots grown deep, much fruit to bear.

"I think I'll stay."

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Embodiment: a revelation on the mountain

Sitting on the lake, only a day away from our departure from that beautiful place, I prayed: for the boys who long to be loved in ways they're not being loved; for the girls whose father does not keep his promises; for the many we meet whose wounds are so deep, I fear they won't be uncovered and will remain bottomless and unknown.

"I don't understand. Why?"

Why is this my story, a girl in the mountains, on the mountain, singing songs and praying prayers in western North Carolina, the mountains I love so much? Why is this their story, unfaithful fathers, deep hurts, stuck in the city that suffocates us?

"Please don't leave them alone; please make a way; please protect them from the Evil One."

Then I'm reminded, I feel Jesus nudging: "They are not alone; I've sent you."

What is this mystery that we embody Jesus, that we are one with him, that we are the ones to go and that we are the ones whose hands heal, whose hearts love, whose arms hold, whose eyes cry, who pray without ceasing. And so, Jesus is doing those very things... in us, with us, together. A mystery.

Jesus is with my neighbors; we are here.

Help me be faithful.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Airport Observations: Humans

Two people in the corner of gate A27 here at the Memphis International Airport are talking, laughing. They both look to be in their 70s. Two people who 40 and 50 years ago never would have spoken, during a time when your skin color absolutely determined who you spoke to at the lunch counter, on the sidewalk, and in the airport. But today, they are friends, for 30 minutes.

In the sunlight beaming through the window, sits a woman, feeble, slow to turn her head when she hears the giggles of the toddler running around behind her. She's patiently awaiting her flight, basking in the sun with her thin white sweater on. Her family awaits in the noisier seating area.

A man, under the age of 50, surprisingly, reclines with feet propped up on his suitcase. Relaxed while he engages in one of my favorite airport activities - people-watching.

Then there are the ones more like me: born in the 80s and 90s, skinny jeans, Toms shoes, skirts with pockets. Our heads are bowed, our eyes are cast down, not in reverence but captivated by the screens in front of us.

We aren't the only ones; we've learned well from the great teachers of our parents' generation, most of whom are also glued to their devices. Checking emails, answering texts, listening to voicemails.

Connected to digital versions of people, missing the flesh and bone humans next to us.

And we wonder why we're hungry for love.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Spring Updates: Music and Granny's China

That's right, I had a Granny. If you grew in the South (with native Southern grandparents) you've had either a Granny, Memaw, Mamaw or MawMaw. And since I'm a good Southerner, I had a Granny. And she had some simple, but still beautiful china, gifted to her in celebration of her marriage in 1950.

This china, "Made in occupied Japan" as it says on the bottom of each dish, now resides in the Malcomb House here in Memphis and saw its inaugural use in this home on Easter Sunday. We found it fitting that on the day we celebrate, remember, rejoice that Jesus - Life that is Real Life - defeated death (the Resurrection), we unwrapped these dishes, washed them off, and set them on the table, giving them once again purpose and usefulness, new life, if you will.

Stuck in a dark shed no more. They've come to life on the dinner table where many, we hope and pray, receive the breaths of new life each time they sit down to supper.

And with this season of "new" dishes, comes the resurrection of the out-of-doors world. Gardens shake off the winter chill and get ready to hold close those tiny seeds and help them grow, grow, grow. Children race outside, climbing onto our picnic table, fighting over who gets the blue chalk.

We love so dearly, ache for, smile upon our child-neighbors, who often spend time on our porch and in our yard.

And for the first two weeks of April, we traveled through our great home state, Mississippi. Every set of travel is different, but with this common theme: our lives are richly blessed with people who love us well.

From Petal to Tuscaloosa (a detour to Alabama), from Starkville to Waynesboro, and back down South to Hattiesburg. You folks are great; we love you so.

And finally, upon return, (and from being inspired by some of the homes we stayed in), Jeff built some shelves. Some very cool shelves for our ever-growing collection of coffee-brewing devices!

We're home for a month, before we travel much of the month of June, leading worship for students in Tennessee and North Carolina (our favorite place on earth... seriously.)

Here's to Spring! It is fleeting; it is beautiful. Enjoy it. Open your dinner table. Drink your coffee. Drink deeply of friendships. Meet new neighbors. Open your diner table to them. Love well.